Literature on women is rife with the barriers women face in advancing in their careers. This is true pretty much across industries, function, and countries. While organizations are taking credit in terms of bringing the female talent in house, they are not as successful in advancing them.
The numbers in the mid to senior management levels are quite bleak across the board. This is not to say that things haven’t moved in the positive direction. Lot of good work has been done in this area of inclusivity to bring the numbers where they are today. What the current state suggests is that more work needs to be done.
In order for women to advance, many constituencies in their environment need to step up as well. To begin with, the woman herself has to figure out her wants and aspirations. What does she want? When, how? What are the potential trade-offs, how far is she willing to stretch, etc. are of key importance to bring clarity to herself. With this understanding, she will have to next onboard her family to garner their support. They need to agree with her goals and determine how they can support her in this journey. Without their aid, the woman will not be able to succeed in realizing her vision. They would have to step in as a true partner in taking care of the child, the house, or in providing emotional support to the woman so she could work guilt and stress free. Once the family is on boarded, she also has to make the organization aware of her vision and goals and how they can support her in providing those opportunities. The woman as an individual has the onus of on boarding herself, her family, and her organization. With these as the foundation blocks, a woman can strive to fulfill her goals.
The buck doesn’t stop at the woman. It goes beyond, to the organization. Men in the organization and the infrastructure in the organization are the next two elements that need to step up. Men as colleagues, as superiors, or as decision makers need to recognize that challenges do exist for women. It is easier to say that if women have opted for a profession, they need to keep their baggage at home. Tough luck, it doesn’t work that way. Men have to come to terms with the fact that women do have two careers as imposed by the society. A society they are very much part of as well. Further, the recognition that women don’t have wives to ensure the smooth operations of their homes is another point of revelation. If these things were equal, one could say it is a level playing field for both genders. The fact that this is not the reality, men need to be aware and cognizant of this disparity and be open minded to the challenges women are submerged in. This is not to indicate that performance measures need to be different. Rather, open minded to offering flexibility to women to balance both her careers effectively.
Next, the infrastructure of the organization is equally important in the journey of women advancement. As aforementioned, the policies, the processes, and the practices need to be women friendly for them to be able to contribute and manage their career, effectively.
The last piece that is of importance refers to the external networks that a woman is surrounded by. This includes but is not limited to childcare facilities, helpers, friends and family, government policies, mentors, role models, and other external constituencies that women should freely access and leverage towards their career advancement. Many a times, women don’t think about these support systems in their environment. They need to if they want to move ahead, peacefully!